The Obama administration is requesting $12.1 billion to fund the Labor Department's discretionary spending, an increase of more than $20 million from the comparable 2012 level, in a proposal that seeks to strengthen labor law enforcement.
The budget request includes nearly $1.8 billion for the department's worker-protection agencies that enforce regulations for workplace health and safety, wages and retirement benefits. That's a $37.7 million increase from 2012.
The increase includes $5.9 million more than in 2012 to help the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforce laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation when they report unsafe conditions. It also includes $5.8 million more than in 2012 for the Mine Safety and Health Administration's enforcement programs that focus on preventing deaths, injuries and illnesses. The agency has been trying to make improvements after the Upper Big Branch mine blast that killed 29 miners in 2010.
And in a sign that the administration intends to crack down on the misclassification of employees as independent contractors, the budget seeks $3.8 million more funding than in 2012 to help the Wage and Hour division target this practice. Labor Department officials say misclassification illegally deprives workers of wages and benefits such as unemployment insurance and workers' compensation. A crackdown could also benefit labor unions, which aren't allowed to organize independent contractors. The administration has sought more funding for this effort in the past but failed to get it.
The budget also reflects the administration's plan to modernize Workers' Compensation systems, training and employment services. The administration is exploring the possibility of streamlining some training programs that serve overlapping populations and cites plans to overhaul two Workers' Compensations programs to save money and improve their operation. Changes to one program would generate savings of $500 million over 10 years, the budget said.